Budhasvāmin Analysis


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Budhasvāmin (bew-dahs-VAH-meen) was a greatly admired north Indian writer. He wrote the Brhatkathāślokasamgraha (seventh century c.e.; Budhasvamin’s Brhatkathaslokasamgraha, 1973). The only surviving manuscript of his work was found in Nepal, but there is no evidence that he was Nepalese as some have assumed. Written in the kāvya style (poetic form) of Sanskrit, the work as it exists in modern times is a fragmentary collection of tales divided into sargas (cantos). It is estimated that originally there may have been 25,000 verses; only 4,539 survive.

In his lively work, Budhasvāmin praises and acknowledges his indebtedness to an earlier writer, Gunādhya, who wrote the lost Brhatkathā (n.d., original lost; “great story”). Budhasvāmin’s faithfulness to the original work cannot be precisely determined, but many of his stories are presumed to be based on the earlier collection. The work consists of fables and stories of romance and adventure. All have well-conceived characters that he describes in clear and restrained terms. In the stories, he exploits the elements of suspense and surprise. A most striking feature of the work is the typically Indian technique of relating stories within stories. Plots and episodes intertwine with one another, and ultimately all weave together to form a single complex tale.